Empowering Customers With Green Buttons and More

In the past few days I’ve receive numerous emails about the nine utilities and electricity suppliers that committed to participating in the Green Button program. For the few of you who might not be familiar with the Green Button program, it is an initiative that supports a White House call to action challenging utilities to engage and empower consumers. It will allow consumers to access their energy usage information online. It’s meant to help them save energy and money and drive innovation in energy efficiency. These nine entrants bring more than 15 million additional households into the Green Button program, putting the total number of households with Green Button access at about 28 million.

As members of the Green Button program, the utilities and electricity suppliers agree to use interoperability standards developed by the Energy Services Provider Interface (ESPI) as a result of work done in the Open Automated Data Exchange (OpenADE) project. The addition of these Green Button participants will help strengthen the quest for smart grid standards and provide some needed standards direction for software and technology developers. This is probably one reason that in addition to the nine utilities, several key vendors in the smart grid market, as well as those that support smart buildings, joined the Green Button program. You may read more details about the Green Button program and the new entrants on Page 16.

Dave Mollerstuen, chairman of the OpenADE and ESPI committees that created the requirements and standards and the acting plenary secretary for the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), said the Green Button is just the first step in delivering usage information from utilities to consumers. He said it is the one-time download of historical usage information.

Jeff Postelwait, POWERGRID International’s online editor, conducted some Green Button research. Because Jeff spends most of his day working online, he knows how to navigate websites and set up new accounts. Jeff went to one participating utility’s website to see what the Green Button program offers its customers. He found the process a bit involved. Customers are required to do a fair amount of upfront work, including setting up an account and downloading data to a third-party application. Jeff wonders if this not-so-streamlined process will discourage people from using their Green Buttons. You may read more about Jeff’s experience in his blog post “What’s the Green Button?” on POWERGRID International’s website, http://www.power-grid.com.

The Green Button program’s success is hard to predict, but it’s supported by many industry heavy hitters and is a starting point for utilities interested in educating and engaging customers. It is not the only program available to utility customers, however. In this issue you’ll see several articles focused on customer-facing technologies and customer education and engagement. Some utilities launched customer engagement initiatives long before the Green Button program was unveiled. Beginning on Page 38, the roundtable article “After Educating Consumers on Smart Meters, Can Utilities Engage and Excite Them?” features executives from Reliant, Oncor and consulting firm Capgemini, which works closely with San Diego Gas & Electric. From this article, you’ll learn that these three utilities are offering their customers some innovative energy management programs. You’ll learn also that a lot of customers are taking advantage of these offerings. Other articles in this issue offering tips on educating and engaging customers are “Beyond the Meter” on Page 22; “Redefining Customer Service” on Page 50; and “Transforming the Consumer Experience—Customer Communications for Utilities” on Page 56.

Customer engagement is more important to utilities’ success than it’s ever been. The Green Button and many other programs are helping utillites connect with their customers. We at POWERGRID International are following these programs and will keep you updated. I’m sure there is much more to come.

Editor in chief
TERESA HANSEN

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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